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Hydrology, watersheds, sedimentation

Science Spotlights

A four-panel map of burn severity, erosion, sediment transport, and delivered sediment.
Rainfall-caused erosion following wildfire can contaminate community water sources. The research team used a simulation approach to estimate the likelihood of water quality degradation and collection system shortfalls for a community with multiple water sources in Colorado. 
Arm reaching into stream water with sampling cup
The mountain sucker has been declining in the Upper Missouri River Basin for unknown reasons. To address this uncertainty, a team of Forest Service researchers collected additional genetic data from these fish to find a section of DNA that is completely unique to this new species and developed an environmental DNA assay to detect this unique DNA fragment in water samples with increased accuracy. 
The cover of : Forest and Rangeland Soils of the United States Under Changing Conditions: A comprehensive science synthesis
A new, open-access book synthesizes current research and management information on forest and rangeland soils, offers ways to understand changing conditions and their impact on soils, and explores directions to positively affect future forest and rangeland soil health in the face of these impacts.  
A screenshot of the eDNAtlas Results Map for the Western United States.
Because of its advantages relative to traditional sampling techniques, environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling is being rapidly adopted to address questions about the distribution of species in streams across the United States. The eDNAtlas provides occurrence information for over 50 species from more than 12,000 samples and assists organizations in collecting more samples for specific areas and species. 
A fire burning on grassland.
Natural wildfires have been important in creating and maintaining grassland ecosystems for millions of years, and prescribed fire is an important component of modern grassland management. Land managers want to understand the effects of fire on grasslands and the ecosystem services they provide, particularly as wildfires become more frequent due to drought.
An example of riparian areas assessed by this project. This photograph shows Bear Valley Creek on the Salmon-Challis National Forest with a shallow gradient and wide valley bottom meandering through depositional material. Photo by D.M. Smith, USFS.
Riparian zones – boundaries between land and rivers or streams – are often overlooked, but are critical for the healthy function of watersheds and ecosystems. The Rocky Mountain Research Station has worked with the USDA Forest Service Intermountain Region to develop targeted maps and assessments of riparian zones in several National Forests that will inform future management and planning efforts. 
A photo of snow melt turning into a stream within a densely forested mountain landscape
In coniferous western forests, recent widespread tree mortality provided opportunities to test the long-held theory that forest cover loss increases water yield. Collective results indicate that post-disturbance streamflow and snowpack may increase, stay the same, or even decrease. This post-disturbance hydrologic response depends on vegetation structure, climate, and topography.  New hypotheses continue to be formulated and tested in this...
The riparian vegetation along the upper Gila River in southwestern New Mexico has high richness of woody plants and extremely high densities of nesting birds including the Federally endangered and threatened species
Rivers and streams of the American Southwest have been heavily altered by human activity, resulting in significant changes to disturbance regimes. Riparian vegetation in aridland floodplain systems is critically important as foraging, migrating, and breeding habitat to birds and other animal species. To conserve riparian ecosystems and organisms, understanding how plants and animals are affected by disturbance processes and multiple stressors is...
Image mosaic of the Clark Fork River during the falling limb of the hydrograph on July 2, 2014.
We used aerial imagery to identify, map, and measure the area of aquatic and terrestrial floodplain habitats during a seasonal flooding disturbance. Understanding links between landscape pattern and changing discharge during a typical bankfull flood provides insight into the annual flux and spatial change in habitats, as well as the long-term structure and function of floodplains.
An analysis of seventeen years of eddy covariance data using a Bayesian statistical model based on the two-source energy and canopy snow mass balance showed a decrease in sublimation in a subalpine forest following a spruce beetle outbreak.
Snow sublimation is a major component of the annual water budget across the Front Range where recent bark beetle outbreaks have dramatically changed the forest canopy structure. A seventeen year study at the Glacier Lakes Ecosystem Experiments Site (GLEES) in Wyoming revealed that sublimation decreased following a spruce beetle outbreak due to reduced canopy intercepted snowfall.